Ethnicity in Asia

Ethnicity in Asia

Ethnicity in Asia

Ethnicity in Asia


A comprehensive comparative introduction to ethnicity in East and Southeast Asia since 1945. Each chapter covers a particular country looking at core issues such as ethnic minorities and groups, population, language, culture, traditional religions, arts; government policy, economies, national integration and foreign relations.


Colin Mackerras

With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 and the end of the Cold War at about the same time, the ideological divide between Marxism and capitalism lost its major impetus as an arena of world conflict. Although a few countries, notably China and Vietnam, were still run by political parties claiming to adhere to Marxism-Leninism, they too were already on the track of market reform, and did not pose nearly the same challenge to liberal capitalism as had been the case during the decades of the Cold War. Liberal capitalism, as represented mainly by the countries of North America and Western Europe, seemed triumphant. Many countries formerly socialist or neutral went over to the side of capitalism, some though by no means all of them adopting the form of government most strongly advocated by the main capitalist states, namely liberal democracy. The United States and its allies had won the Cold War.

Ethnicity and ethnic conflict in the contemporary world

However, it did not take long for other issues to replace the ideological ones to stoke the fires of conflict. Among these issues, a particularly important one was ethnic divisions and tensions. Of course, these were hardly new when the Cold War ended. In many places throughout the world they had been endemic for decades or centuries. What shocked the world, however, was that the splintering of states like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia involved terrible ethnic warfare and conflict. When Yugoslavia, which many had once considered a model both of socialism and ethnic harmony, split apart, several wars broke out in succession throughout the 1990s. The most serious was in Bosnia-Herzegovina. No sooner did this country declare itself independent on 5 April 1992 than an extremely savage war broke out between Serb, Croat and Muslim communities, which had earlier appeared to get on with each other reasonably, if not very, well. The war saw human rights abuses of a severity not seen in Europe since the end of the Second World War, and lasted until 1995.

Meanwhile, ethnic conflict seemed to spread to many other parts of the globe. The worst case was in the tiny Central African state of Rwanda, where the minority Tutsis came under attack from the majority Hutus, who comprised

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